2018 Red Jade

Red Jade, Sun Moon Lake Tea, Hong Yue, and Variety # 18 are all different names for one the most unusual teas that I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. Developed before the Second World War during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, Red Jade was created when a large leaf tea bush from Burma was bred with a native Taiwan variety. 

After the war, when quality of black tea declined due to mechanization and the popularity of the tea bag, Red Jade was mostly forgotten. In 2002, one of the gardens that I purchase oolong tea from planted the trees as wind barriers using the height and girth to protect the more delicate qin xing cultivar trees from typhoon winds. In 2008, as a test, the first batch was harvested and processed with astonishing results. Each year since has shown a steady improvement in quality, this year being no exception.

The primary flavor characteristic of Red Jade is its wintergreen flavor and aroma. Only certain rare wild tea cultivars from South Central Asia, where it’s believed the tea plant originated, produce the wintergreen compounds found in Red Jade. The whirlwind flavor has notes of wintergreen, camphor, raisin, clove, hops, licorice, and cinnamon. The color is a deep red and the amazing strength will yield multiple infusions without losing potency or aroma. Compared with the Red Jade from previous years, the 2018 Red Jade is sweeter, and smoother, while still retaining the characteristic wintergreen notes.

Steeping Tips

Steep 5-7 grams of tea in a gaiwan with water off the boil for 20-30 seconds. Despite the appearance, Red Jade is a black tea and it doesn’t require a rinse. Increase subsequent infusion times by 10 seconds per infusion. The more tea that you use, the more infusions it will yield. Unfortunately, Red Jade is not a good candidate for cold-brewing.